“I’ve just made a deal that’ll keep the Empire out of here forever.”

Way, WAY back in the day, Cisco bought Linksys. Linksys was a hacker’s friend…you could root the box and install your own router on it with greater customization and security. Everybody was doing it, and it built a pretty big fan base.

Today I read this. In a nutshell, the newest Linksys routers came with an “auto-update” feature turned on, and the routers did just that.  They updated themselves, and then changed how users authenticate to the device by integrating it with their cloud service. Users revolted, much backpedaling ensued. But what’s really interesting is this paragraph that used to be part of the EULA (since removed):

When you use the Service, we may keep track of certain information related to your use of the Service, including but not limited to the status and health of your network and networked products; which apps relating to the Service you are using; which features you are using within the Service infrastructure; network traffic (e.g., megabytes per hour); Internet history; how frequently you encounter errors on the Service system and other related information (“Other Information”).

That’s some nasty stuff you are trying to doing there, Cisco. Consumers have come to expect this kind of stuff from ISPs (which is also shameful, IMO), but not necessarily from the companies that provide widgets. The thing about widget ownership is that we all feel that, when we buy it, it’s OURS. We have paid a distinct price set by you, Mr. Manufacturer, and now that we own it, we can do whatever we want with it. We know that we may be giving up on the warranty, but we usually don’t care. The usefulness of the device will always outlive any warranty that’s provided anyway. And if I want to hack my Cisco router and make a blender and pancake maker out of it as well, then I will do that. What we don’t like is when you, Mr. Manufacturer, try to extend your ownership past the point of sale. Yes, this happens alot. That doesn’t mean it’s right.

As Lord Vader put it: “I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further.”

This is precisely why we need investigative journalism. As you recall, journalism is dying because of the Internet, the very medium over which I am publishing this plea. On the other hand, journalism must be alive otherwise we wouldn’t have heard about this Cisco EULA. But I’m willing to wager that the person who uncovered the EULA isn’t getting paid what a former investigative journalists got paid. The money thingie still hasn’t worked itself out.

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